The Rochester Rhinos had a potential trap game over the weekend sandwiched in between last Wednesday’s easy cup win over New Jersey amateur side FC Motown and this Wednesday’s matchup against the second-placed Tampa Bay Rowdies. Richmond has been a tricky fixture for the Rhinos in the past, but Sunday’s USL contest at Capelli Sport Stadium against the Kickers ended in a 1-1 draw.
Rhinos head coach Bob Lilley made nine changes to the starting lineup after the team’s 3-0 midweek win in the U.S. Open Cup; only Jordan Dover and Brandon Beresford retained their places as Wal Fall served his one-game USL suspension. There were few standout performers on the night, though second-year center back Joe Farrell won five of his six aerial duels and Sofiane Tergou was lively off the bench in the second half.
Despite playing farthest from goal in Rochester’s 4-1-4-1 formation, Kenardo Forbes was the brightest player in attack for the hosts. Forbes nearly doubled the passing totals of some of his teammates and the Jamaican also managed to rack up the most duels on the ground won for the Rhinos.
The team relied on Forbes and the team’s fullbacks, Ryan James on the left and Jordan Dover on the right, to hopefully hit incisive long balls upfield. There was little-to-no creativity from the home side’s four midfielders playing in front of Forbes: Bradley Kamdem Fewo, Mike Grazi, Brandon Beresford, and Stefan Defregger.
Kenardo Forbes can do a lot of things well on the soccer field but forcing him to be both the best offensive player and the best defensive player is not a recipe for success. When Wal Fall returns from his suspension in Wednesday’s league game against Tampa Bay Rowdies, Forbes should be freed from some of his defensive responsibilities while the team also adds the lanky German’s passing range.
The third-year Rhinos midfielder broke the deadlock in the 32nd minute. After interplay with forward Darius Madison, Forbes drove into Richmond’s penalty area, rounded goalkeeper Matt Turner on the left side, and got his body around the ball to slide a right-footed shot into the net.
Raul Gonzalez tied the game on Richmond’s first shot on target just before halftime. The rookie midfielder got bragging rights over Rochester’s goalkeeper Tomas Gomez when he scored his 30-yard free kick in the 45th minute.
Richmond’s only shot of the second half came from the foot of Gonzalez but Gomez ensured he was not embarrassed by an even farther free kick. Rochester’s forwards, Madison starting and Samuel Edoung-Biyo off the bench, combined for zero shots in the game.
If the team was set up tactically for the forward to connect short passes with his midfield, Madison appeared to succeed. The former University of Virginia striker had 86.7 percent pass completion, or 13 of 15 total passes completed. That tally is the lowest on the team and nearly half of the total of the next lowest player (29 from Kamdem Fewo and 38 from Defregger).
The Rhinos did not get a performance from their starting forward when perhaps the game was balanced on a knife’s edge and needed someone to step up. When these teams faced each other in Rochester last year, Yudai Imura stepped up with a free kick goal when Turner came up with a huge penalty save to ensure a 1-0 Richmond victory. Rochester did not get that type of performance from anyone either offensively or defensively.
The history record shows tight affairs often decided by a single goal, though not always in Rochester’s favor. Fifteen of the last 20 league matches between the two teams, dating back to the A-League in 2004, have had fewer than 3 goals (1-0 or 1-1 results). The Rhinos have not beaten Richmond, home or away, since June 23, 2012, a 3-2 win on the road, and Rochester has only three wins in those 20 games. Richmond now has eight wins in that period from July of 2004 while there have been nine draws.
Bob Lilley was disappointed with the performance against FC Motown in the Open Cup despite claiming a 3-0 win. On Sunday against Richmond the team dropped points at home with a lackluster performance. To have any hope against a very talented Tampa Bay Rowdies side on Wednesday night, the Rhinos will need a much stronger showing across the board.
The Rochester Rhinos sit in 10th place with a 2-1-3 record. They host Tampa Bay at 7:05PM on Wednesday, May 24.